Phoebe wants only real emergencies in the E-R - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe wants only real emergencies in the E-R

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

December 3, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Emergency rooms all over the country are packed with patients who don't have true emergencies.

People with colds and minor scrapes clog the system, leading to long waits and prolonged treatment for people with emergency situations.

That's why Phoebe Putney Hospital is looking at creating an emergency center diversion program to get patients who don't need to be in the E-R treatment at another facility. 

Each day, doctors in the Emergency Center at Phoebe see more than more than 100 people. Some of them wait hours to be seen.

"We do get lots of complaints about wait times in our E-R and a lot of that comes from people who have true emergencies and, of course, they should be soon than anyone else," said Dr. Hasan Rizvi, Chief of Staff.

Unfortunately, overcrowding in the emergency center, leads to slower response times.

"People come in for general reasons and the time that they spend in the ER is time lost towards making a diagnosis and treatment," said Gail Carter, VP of Revenue Cycle. 

That's why Phoebe wants to create a diversion program. This is how it could work: patients will be screened when they arrive. If their situation is not an emergency, they will be asked to go to a doctors office or clinic.

If they still want to be treated in the E-R, they could be asked to pay up front. It's a way to encourage people with chronic conditions to see a physician regularly, and not rely on the E-R as primary care.

"If they come to the ER and sit there and wait for five hours, well, they haven't taken care of their problem anyway and that's not really a way to take care of a lot of illnesses that come up."

Dr. Hasan Rizvi is the chief of staff at Phoebe. He isn't comfortable requiring patients to pay before they are allowed treatment, but does believe a diversion program is a good idea.

"If you have a clog in the system of people that really should be seen somewhere else, we're providing a disservice to the patient who genuinely needs that ER."

The diversion program could relieve the Emergency Center of several thousand patients each month.

Phoebe may also not accept the Phoebe care card in the Emergency center for patients with non-emergencies.

The policy hasn't been finalized.

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